Since the foundation of Association Assafou, the British Moroccan Society has been in close collaboration. This short article gives you an idea about the Association and its work.
Start date: Association Assafou was formed in May 2011 by Ahmed NAIT (Managing Director, Travel Link) and Abdelkarim OUACHIKH
President: Abdelkarim OUACHIKH
Coordinator: Sadia ABOUOBAYD, Attachée de Direction, Travel Link
BMS administrator Ella interviewed Assafou’s President, Abdelkrim Ouachikh, about the work of the association and the importance of preschool education in the Atlas Mountains.
Can you tell me a little more about Association Assafou and your main aims?
Assafou Association for Development is a non-profit organisation founded in 2011. The head office is located in Tahnaout. Our main aims are to:
And what are the main projects that you run?
The Association runs 11 preschool centres and women’s centres for local craft trades within the rural Al Haouz region. In the 2020-2021 school year, over 250 children were enrolled in the preschool centres.
We also work in the development of sustainable rural tourism and in raising awareness among the population and local associations about the importance of preserving the environment and the local cultural and artistic heritage.
The 11 preschool centres:
Mriwat – 2016
Ait Bouali – 2016
Ouakrim Benlahcen – 2017
Ighir Nsebt – 2017
Talataste Learning Centre in Zat Valley
Talataste is a village south of Marrakech located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains with a population of around 300. Th drive there from Marrakech takes approx 1 1/2 hours. The inhabitants are Berber people living off farming, raising livestock, making pottery and rugs and selling them in local markets.
Through a fruitful collaboration between Travel Link and British Moroccan Society, the educational centre was set up in 2010. In the 2020/2021 school year, there were 12 girls and 18 boys at the centre. Since the centre’s opening in 2010, over 190 children have been enrolled in the preschool. The pupils, all aged 4 to 6, are taught by 1 teacher in the morning. Another teacher runs extra-curricular activities (computers, reading, theatre in the afternoon for up to 100 children in groups of 20 to 30. There is also a Literacy programme for 30 women aged 17 to 50.
Agounsane Centre in Ourika Valley
Agounsane is a village with a population of 700, south of Marrakech in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, about 45 minutes drive from Marrakech. The inhabitants are Berbers doing similar work as in Talataste.
Travel Link and Saga Holidays set up a charitable centre in 2012 which accommodates both a kindergarten and a library equipped with computers.
A new room was constructed and opened in 2015 for girls who have missed out on school and for women to have classes in such things as literacy, embroidery and weaving. There are currently 24 pupils (8 boys, 16 girls) aged 4 to 6 all taught by 1 teacher. There are also 25 secondary school pupils who use the library for their homework and 32 women (aged 17 to 50) who benefit from the multifunctional centre.
The children in both villages after the age of 6 go to the government primary schools which are 1/2 to 1 km from their homes. Secondary schools are 2 to 3 kms away.
Why is preschool education so important in the region?
Preschool education is one of our priorities due to the lack of preschool education in rural areas of the Atlas Mountains. It’s very important that children in our region can access preschool education because the spoken language, Amazigh, makes adapting to primary school difficult. If children haven’t learnt Arabic in preschool, they can have difficulties adapting to the Arabic and French used in primary schools. Our main objective is to help local children learn Arabic in preparation for going to primary school.
Without the preschool centres offered by Assafou, are there other preschool options for families?
Assafou has been running since 2011 in rural areas where no other government preschools are available. More recently, the government has made it a priority to construct preschools next to local primary schools to ensure education for all citizens in rural areas, but this is still a work in progress.
How has your work been impacted by Covid-19?
Just like everyone else, Association Assafou has been impacted by Covid-19. We have been restricted by the national lockdown and there have been no visits to our centers in over a year. During the lockdown, we collected money to help people in need of food and basic supplies and distributed around 2000 baskets of food in rural villages.
All of our activities were interrupted, including our classes and our projects providing sustainable tourism and development in the areas where the preschool centres are built.
And finally, what is Association Assafou’s next project?
During Covid-19, we have encountered difficulties in terms of internet connection since all the centres are located in mountain villages with a weak connection network.
Our next project is focused on the Talataste Centre and we are looking to renew the classroom including establishing internet connection and providing computers. This will help us in teaching the younger generations how to use technology in order to give children in rural areas the same opportunity that urban children have. This action will be undertaken in collaboration with the BMS.
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